Friday, November 5, 2004

Polling Place Problems

In the next few days I plan to share my thoughts on the outcome of the election. But before I get into that, I want to express my displeasure with the setup at our polling place.

We vote at the Oldemeyer Center in Seaside. We arrived there at 3:45pm to avoid the after work rush hour.

It was widely reported before the election that a large turnout was expected, yet our polling place was completely unprepared for anything more than the miniscule turnout normally seen during an off-year ho-hum election.

To make matters worse, two precincts, 77 and 78, were combined and crammed into a small room barely large enough to handle one in a normal election. This small room had only one 36" wide door to handle both incoming and outgoing traffic, which was constant.

There were signs posted in the hallway, with 77 on the left wall and 78 on the right, leading to confusion in the line as to where people were supposed to go. A rope had been set up, supposedly to separate the two precincts, but it led to the same narrow door, and everyone ended up on one side of the rope, due to unclear signage. One sign for Precinct 77 was posted on a door that led to an empty room, further adding to the confusion.

Inside the tiny room there were two tables set up to sign in, one for each precinct. 77 on the left, and ours, 78 on the right. 77 was given twice as much space as 78.

Precinct 78 was laid out in an L shape in one corner of the room, with the sign-in table on the short leg, and the voting booths on the long leg of the L. That might have worked, except that a large, heavy immovable table had also been placed inside of the L, within two feet of both the table and the booths, leaving precious little space to actually move. One stray booth was placed outside of this imposing table, right next to the line of incoming people. I was assigned to that lone booth.

I laid out my ballot, only to feel the eyes of the people waiting in line peering over my shoulder. I requested another booth. That one offered adequate privacy, but the pen used to mark the new optical scan ballot was on a chain that wastoo short to reach across the 18" square table, so I kept having to shift the oversized ballot around the table.

Meanwhile, across the hall, a large multi-purpose room, which could have easily accommodated both precincts with plenty of wiggle room, sat empty.

But at least we didn't run out of ballots like another Seaside precinct did.

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